ANNAPOLIS — Senator Jim Mathias (D-38) was called on this week to deliver the ceremonial Presidents’ Day address in the historic Old Senate Chamber where George Washington officially resigned his commission as Commander-in-Chief in 1783 and called on his colleague’s to embrace the first president’s notion of civility.
Every year on Presidents’ Day, the State Senate holds a special celebration of Washington’s birthday in the chamber where he resigned as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army in an emotional ceremony on Dec. 23, 1783. After his resignation, Washington briefly returned to private life as a farmer before being elected as the nation’s first president.
Each year, a current Maryland Senator is chosen to give an address commemorating the event and this year Mathias was chosen for the task. On Monday, Mathias addressed his colleagues in the Senate from the spot where Washington resigned his commission.
“It was a powerful, powerful night to stand there and take in all that history,” he said this week. “I was truly humbled to be in that historic chamber, much less give a speech from the same spot.”
Mathias said he carefully researched the speech with the help of historians in order to embrace the solemnity of the occasion. During the speech, he focused on Washington’s call centuries earlier for civility in government, a trait often lost in today’s political arenas.
“Tonight, let us honor a personal trait of our nation’s founding father,” Mathias’ speech read. “Yes, it is civility that was evident then and lives within us now to inspire our bright future.”
Mathias pointed out Washington had, at an early age, written down 110 rules of behavior that governed his public and private life and called on his contemporaries to heed the advice. The very first of Washington’s 110 rules of behavior stated “every action done in company out to be with some sign of respect to those that are present.” The very last read “labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.”
In his closing, Mathias returned to the founding father’s notion of civility as he addressed his colleagues.
“As we gather together this evening, in this historic chamber, join me as grateful Marylanders and pledge to carry forward the character of our first president, who stood and spoke in the very place,” Mathias said. “While our passions and beliefs drive us forward, it is our civility and character that will truly transcend our time in this hallowed place.”